Rare earth minerals are essential ingredients for many of the technologies that are important today and will be key in the future. In this episode, we learn about a new global economy being created around rare minerals and how the United States can catch up to the commanding lead that China has established in dominating the mineral dependent industries.
Executive Producer: Coffee Infused Nerd
Executive Producer: David Dear
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Sec. 102: Policy We will analyze supply and demand of minerals to avoid supply shortages, mitigate price volatility, and prepare for demand growth We will map and develop domestic resources of minerals
Speed up the permitting process for mineral mining and new mineral manufacturing facilities Invest in workforce training for mineral exploration and development Transfer technology and information in international cooperation agreements Recycle critical minerals Develop alternatives to critical minerals
Sec. 104: Resource Assessment Within 4 years of the date the bill is signed into law, a “comprehensive national assessment of each critical mineral” must be completed which identifies known quantities of each mineral using public and private information and an assessment of undiscovered mineral resources in the U.S. The information will be given to the public electronically
Sec. 105: Permitting Orders reports to be done on expediting permitting
Sec. 107: Recycling, Efficiency, and Alternatives The Secretary of Energy would be required to conduct a research and development program to promote production, use, and recycling of critical minerals and to develop alternatives to critical minerals that are not found in abundance in the United States.
Sec. 109: Education and Workforce The Secretary of Labor will be given almost two years to complete an assessment of the Untied States workforce capable of operating a critical minerals management industry Creates a grant program where the Secretary of Labor will give “institutions of higher eduction” money for up to 10 years to create critical minerals management programs, and to help pay for student enrolled in those programs.
Sec. 110: National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $5 million per year from 2020-2019 for the program created in 2005 that catalogs geologic and engineering data, maps, logs, and samples. This program was authorized at $30 million from 2006-2010.
Sec. 112: Authorization of Appropriations Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $50 million for fiscal years 2020-2019.
Sec. 201: Program for Extraction and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements and Minerals from Coal and Coal Byproducts Requires the Secretary of Energy to create a program for developing “advanced separation technologies” for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and minerals from coal. Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $23 million per year for 2020-2027.
- Article: Unsanitized: The HEALS Act Emerges By David Dayen, The American Prospect, July 28, 2020
- Article: Pompeo’s Surreal Speech on China By Ernest Scheyder, The Atlantic, July 25, 2020
- Article: Trump wants an ‘alliance of democracies’ to oppose China. It’s starting to take shape By By Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2020
- Article: Pentagon resumes rare earths funding program after review By Ernest Scheyder, Reuters, July 21, 2020
- Article: Quantitative Easing vs. Currency Manipulation By Matthew Johnston, Investopedia, June 25, 2019
- Article: China hands out more grain import quotas to increase purchases – sources by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton, Reuters, May 13, 2020
- Article: Trump’s tariffs on China could cost the US in its fight against the coronavirus by Audrey Cher, CNBC, April 13, 2020
- Article: Mining the moon: Trump backs new space race by James Marshall, E&E News, April 27, 2020
- Article: Trump wants more countries to join US policy approach to space resources, lunar mining by Michael Sheetz, CNBC, April 6, 2020
- Article: Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, White House, April 6, 2020
- Article: As copper recovery declines, so does the tellurium supply for thin-film solar panels By Kelly Pickerel, Solar Power World, July 3, 2018
- Article: Drone video shows blindfolded, handcuffed prisoners in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur region By Liselotte Mas, The Observers, September 25, 2019
- Article: China footage reveals hundreds of blindfolded and shackled prisoners By Lily Kuo, The Guardian, September 23, 2019
- Document: Rare Earth Elements in National Defense: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress By Valerie Bailey Grasso, Specialist in Defense Acquisition, Congressional Research Service, December 23, 2013
- Article: U.S. imposes quotas on some Chinese textiles By Keith Bradsher, The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2005
- Bill: H.R.2262 – U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Congress.gov, November 25, 2015
Sound Clip Sources
Speech: Communist China and the Free World’s Future, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary Of State, Yorba Linda, California, The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, U.S. Department of State, July 23, 2020
14:00 Mike Pompeo: The Department of Justice and other agencies have vigorously pursued punishment for these crimes….And so our Department of Defense has ramped up its efforts, freedom of navigation operations out and throughout the East and South China Seas, and in the Taiwan Strait as well. And we’ve created a Space Force to help deter China from aggression on that final frontier. And so too, frankly, we’ve built out a new set of policies at the State Department dealing with China, pushing President Trump’s goals for fairness and reciprocity, to rewrite the imbalances that have grown over decades.
18:35 Mike Pompeo: It’s true, there are differences. Unlike the Soviet Union, China is deeply integrated into the global economy. But Beijing is more dependent on us than we are on them.
21:30 Mike Pompeo: The challenge of China demands exertion, energy from democracies – those in Europe, those in Africa, those in South America, and especially those in the Indo-Pacific region. And if we don’t act now, ultimately the CCP will erode our freedoms and subvert the rules-based order that our societies have worked so hard to build.
22:20 Mike Pompeo: So we can’t face this challenge alone. The United Nations, NATO, the G7 countries, the G20, our combined economic, diplomatic, and military power is surely enough to meet this challenge if we direct it clearly and with great courage. Maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies. We have the tools. I know we can do it. Now we need the will.
Speech: Attorney General Barr’s Remarks on China Policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, U.S. Department of Justice, July 16, 2020
13:50: The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg—an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent technological superpower.
14:15: A centerpiece of this effort is the Communist Party’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, a plan for PRC domination of high-tech industries like robotics, advanced information technology, aviation, and electric vehicles, and many other technologies . Backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, this initiative poses a real threat to U.S. technological leadership.
15:20 “Made in China 2025” is the latest iteration of the PRC’s state-led, mercantilist economic model. For American companies in the global marketplace, free and fair competition with China has long been a fantasy. To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics: currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks, and industrial espionage.
16:30: The PRC also seeks to dominate key trade routes and infrastructure in Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific. In the South China Sea, for example, through which about one-third of the world’s maritime trade passes, the PRC has asserted expansive and historically dubious claims to nearly the entire waterway, flouted the rulings of international courts, built artificial islands and placed military outposts on them, and harassed its neighbors’ ships and fishing boats.
17:00: Another ambitious project to spread its power and influence is the PRC’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. Although billed as “foreign aid,” in fact these investments appear designed to serve the PRC’s strategic interests and domestic economic needs. For example, the PRC has been criticized for loading poor countries up with debt, refusing to renegotiate terms, and then taking control of the infrastructure itself, as it did with the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota in 2017. This is little more than a form of modern-day colonialism.
19:20: The PRC’s drive for technological supremacy is complemented by its plan to monopolize rare earth materials, which play a vital role in industries such as consumer electronics, electric vehicles, medical devices, and military hardware. According to the Congressional Research Service, from the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States led the world in rare earth production. “Since then, production has shifted almost entirely to China,” in large part due to lower labor costs and lighter environmental regulation. The United States is now dangerously dependent on the PRC for these materials. Overall, China is America’s top supplier, accounting for about 80 percent of our imports. The risks of dependence are real. In 2010, for example, Beijing cut exports of rare earth materials to Japan after an incident involving disputed islands in the East China Sea. The PRC could do the same to us.
41:00: In a globalized world, American corporations and universities alike may view themselves as global citizens, rather than American institutions. But they should remember that what allowed them to succeed in the first place was the American free enterprise system, the rule of law, and the security afforded by America’s economic, technological, and military strength. Globalization does not always point in the direction of greater freedom. A world marching to the beat of Communist China’s drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade, or the free exchange of ideas.
There was a time American companies understood that. They saw themselves as American and proudly defended American values.
Hearing: U.S.-China Relations and its Impact on National Security and Intelligence in a Post-COVID World, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, July 1, 2020
- Dr. Tanvi Madan – Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution
- Dr. Evan Medeiros – Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies and Cling Family Distinguished Fellow, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
- Mr. Orville Schell – Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society
- Ms. Meredith Sumpter – Head of Research Strategy and Operations, Eurasia Group
21:15 Mr. Orville Schell: We were accustomed for many, many decades. And I’ve written this along. piece that’s in the in the record, I think is my testimony. But engagement was the kind of center of how we related to China. And what were the presumptions of that? Well, the presumption was that this began in 1972, with Kissinger and Nixon going to China, that if we simply engage China across the board, that slowly, we would have a greater likelihood of more convergence rather than divergence that we would slowly morph out of the Cold War. And what is so extraordinary about the policy of engagement and I’m not one of the people who believes it was an erroneous policy. I do, however, believe it is a failed policy. But it was not erroneous, precisely because for eight presidential administrations United States government sought, and I think this is the height of leadership, to slowly bend the metal of China, to help China in to assist China, to morph out of its Maoist revolutionary period into something that was more soluble and convergent with the world as it existed outside, of the marketplace, international order, etc, etc. And I think if you look at all of these different administrations and go through them one by one, as I’ve done in the piece that’s in your record, it is so striking to see how one president, Republican and Democrat came in after another, usually with a rather jaundiced view of China. Ultimately, they embraced the notion that we should try to engage China. So what happened? Well, I think just to cut to the chase here, what happened was that we have a regime in China now that’s very different in its set of presumptions than that pathway that was laid out by Deng Xiaoping in 1978-79 of reform and opening. Without reform, without the presumption that China will both reform economically and politically to some degree, engagement has no basis. Because if you’re not converging, then you’re diverging. And if China actually is not trying to slowly evolve out of its own old Leninist, Maoist mold, sort of form of government, then it is in a sense, deciding that that is what it is and that is what its model is and that is what it’s going to be projecting around the world.
55:45 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: Beijing decision makers believe that their state directed economic system is the foundation of the livelihood of their political system. In other words, we have been spending our energies trying to force China to change and China is not willing to change an economic model that it believes underpins its political longevity.
56:15 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: There are limits to how much we can force China to not be China. And China is working to try to create space for its own unique model within what has been up until just now with this competition, a largely Western based market consensus of how economic systems should work.
56:40 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Do we care if they have a more state directed model? I mean, what we care about is that like, This room is full of stuff that has Chinese inputs in it. What we really care about is do they send us stuff that is of high quality and cheap. Do we really care? You know, I mean, the Swedes have a much more state directed model than we do. So do we really care? Ms. Meredith Sumpter: We care so long as we don’t see China’s model as impairing our own ability to viably compete fairly. And so this gets to that level playing field. And ultimately, this is not about the political ideology driven Cold War of the past. But it’s really a competition over which economic model will deliver greater prosperity and more opportunity to more people in the years ahead. So in the short term, there’s all this focus on China’s incredible rise and the success of its economic model. And it’s not trying to export that model per se. It wants to create space for its model to coexist in this market led global economic system.
Hearing: China’s Maritime Ambitions, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee: Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, June 30, 2020
- Gregory Poling – Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Dr. Oriana Sklylar Mastro: Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Assistant Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University
- Dr. Andrew Erickson: Professor of Strategy, China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College and Visiting Scholar at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University
21:45 Gregory Poling: Chinese interest and Chinese claims have expanded considerably over the decades. Prior to the 1990s, the South China Sea featured a dispute over islands. And then Beijing decided to declare straight baselines and internal waters around the paracels and more worryingly historic rights throughout the entirety of the South China Sea, claiming in some form all waters, all airspace, all seabed, in contravention of international law. Over the last decade, Beijing has become far more aggressive in pursuing that illegal claim. At the end of 2013, China embarked on a unprecedented campaign of artificial island building and military nation, which today allows China to deploy a 24/7 presence of naval Coast Guard and paramilitary forces throughout every inch of the nine dash line, slowly pushing its neighbors away from their legal rights, out of the waters guaranteed to them by international law.
26:00 Gregory Poling: The United States must have rotational forces deployed along the so called first island chain that rings China. And there is no place south of Japan that that can happen other than the Philippines, Admiral Davidson has recognized this. The United States might not be able to do that under Duterte, but we must prevent further erosion of the Alliance and we must prepare a plan for a post 2022, post-Duterte Philippines that will allow us to reengage.
37:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: Here’s where China’s overwhelming and still rapidly growing numbers are posing very significant challenges for our efforts to keep the peace and stability in the region. In the naval dimension for example, while many advocate a US Navy of 355 plus ships, both manned and unmanned, China already has its own fully manned Navy of 360 warships according to data recently released by the Office of Naval Intelligence.
48:30 Dr. Oriana Sklylar Mastro: So the number of Chinese nationals overseas, for example, is a relatively new phenomenon. I wrote a paper about it maybe about eight years ago and you have 10s of thousands of Chinese companies operating now in the Indian Ocean region that weren’t there before. That we have seen an uptick because of One Belt, One Road as well. And also China used to not be so reliant on oil and energy from outside and now they are one of the top importers and they rely on the Malacca straits for that.
1:00:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: We see concretely already a naval base in Djibouti. And as you rightly pointed out, there are a series of other ports, where sometimes it’s unclear what the ultimate purpose is. But clearly there’s extensive Chinese involvement and ample potential for upgrading.
1:03:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: China’s Coast Guard really, in many ways is almost like a second Navy. It’s by far the largest in the world in terms of numbers of ships, and while many of them are capable of far ranging operations, the vast majority of China’s more than 1,000 coast guard ships are deployed generally near to China. Unlike Coast Guard, such as the US Coast Guard, China’s Coast Guard has a very important sovereignty advancement mission. And China’s coast guard by recent organizational changes is now formally part of one of China’s armed forces, as I mentioned before.
1:08:45 Connolly: And meanwhile China is the title of this hearing is maritime ambitions. It’s not just in the South China Sea. The fact that the Chinese built and now are operating the Hambantota port facility, which could easily become a military base because of the indebtedness of the Sri Lankan government and its inability to finance and serve the debt on that finance, has given China a strategic location, through which passes, I’m told, about 30% of all the word shipping, and it’s a real nice reminder to India, that now China has that strategic location.
Hearing: Impact of COVID-19 on Mineral Supply Chains, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 24, 2020
- Nedal T. Nassar, Section Chief, National Minerals Information Center, Geological Survey, Department of the Interior;
- Joe Bryan, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, Hyattsville, Maryland; Mark Caffarey, Umicore USA, Raleigh, North Carolina;
- Thomas J. Duesterberg, Hudson Institute, Aspen, Colorado;
- Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, London, United Kingdom.
22:00 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Border closures in Africa have impacted the export of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and platinum from South Africa. Mines in Argentina, Peru and Brazil have temporarily shut down restricting supplies of lithium, copper and iron.
25:00 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): The World Bank released a report last month estimating that demand for lithium, graphite and cobalt will increase 500% by 2050 to meet clean energy demand.
37:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Mineral commodities are the foundation of modern society. Smartphones would have more dropped calls and shorter battery lives without tantalum capacitors and cobalt based cathodes and their lithium ion batteries. Bridges, buildings and pipelines would not be as strong without vanadium and other alloying elements and their Steel’s medical MRI machines would use more energy and produce lower quality images without helium cooled niobium based superconducting magnets.
38:45 Nedal T. Nassar: Tantalum and cobalt in smartphones for example, are now predominantly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and refined in China.
39:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Concurrently, developed countries such as the United States have become increasingly import reliant for their mineral commodity needs, thereby increasing their exposure to foreign supply disruptions.
39:30 Nedal T. Nassar: Many high supply risk commodities are recovered as byproducts. The supply of byproducts has the additional challenge of potentially being unresponsive to demand signals, given their relatively minimal contribution to produce those revenues.
40:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Once a mineral supply chain is identified as high risk, the next step is to determine the best way to reduce that risk. Various strategies can be pursued including diversification of supply, identification and potential expansion of domestic mineral resources, increasing recycling, developing substitutes, maintaining strategic inventories and bolstering trade relations.
43:00 Joe Bryan: From communications gear that keeps our troops connected on the battlefield, to unmanned aerial and subsurface platforms to tactical ground vehicles, transitioning away from lead acid, lithium ion batteries are everywhere. That is not surprising. Energy storage can not only increased capability, but by reducing fuel use can also help take convoys off the road and our troops out of harm’s way.
44:15 Joe Bryan: COVID-19 severely impacted the supply of cobalt, a key mineral in the production of lithium ion batteries.
44:30 Joe Bryan: But the lithium ion market also represents an opportunity. Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory is one example. The state of Ohio recently landed a $2.3 billion investment from General Motors and Korea’s LG Chem to build a battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio. That facility will bring more than 1000 jobs to the Mahoning Valley.
45:00 Joe Bryan: Now we can’t change geology and create resources where they don’t exist. But we can change direction and compete for supply chains jobs in minerals extraction, processing, anode and cathode production and cell production.
45:15 Joe Bryan: The scale of global investment in the lithium ion supply chain is massive and investment patterns will have geopolitical impacts. Right now, commercial relationships are being forged and trade alliances hammered out. Decisions made over the next few years will define the global transportation industry for decades to come and plant the seeds of future political alliances. Maintaining our global influence and diplomatic leverage depends on us, not just getting in the race, but setting the pace. From establishing priorities for research and development, to setting conditions for attracting investment to most importantly, hitting the accelerator on transportation electrification. There are things we can do. But to date, our actions have matched neither the scale of the opportunity, the efforts of our competitors, nor the risk we accept, should we remain on the sidelines.
46:30 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Thank you, Mr. Bryan, appreciate you pointing out the importance of mineral security for our military. Some of us think that our American Mineral Security Initiative would be a good fit within the NDAA that will be coming before us for floor action in these next few days. So thank you for that reminder.
55:45 Thomas J. Duesterberg: Let me now turn to the auto industry. Other witnesses have noted the importance of lithium ion batteries in the control of China over the major mineral resources that go into those batteries. This is incredibly important to the future of the auto industry. China has clearly targeted this industry. It has control of the resources, has a goal of producing for its own domestic market, which is the largest market in the world, 80% of electric vehicles domestically by 2025.
56:30 Thomas J. Duesterberg: China is a major producer of manganese and magnesium minerals which are associated – controls of over 80% of those magnesium resources – which is incredibly important to the future of light vehicles. Substituting alloys with magnesium products is one key to reducing the weight of all kinds of transportation vehicles and construction equipment.
57:30 Thomas J. Duesterberg: Other witnesses have also mentioned rare earths, and other important minerals for which we are dependent on China, such as just tantalum to a certain extent cadmium, these are all important to the $500 billion semiconductor industry, where the United States holds a technological lead and produces over 45% of the chips that it produces here in the United States.
59:00 Thomas J. Duesterberg: I will finally note that the solar power industry also depends on rare earths like cadmium and tellurium. And the leading producer in the United States for solar as a thin film technology that depends greatly on these minerals and gives it an cost advantage over the related products that are being subsidized heavily by China.
39:30 Simon Moores: China is building the equivalent of one battery mega factory a week. United States one every four months.
40:00 Simon Moores: Since 2017, China’s battery manufacturing pipeline has increased from nine to 107, which 53 are now active and in production. Meanwhile, the United States has gone from three to nine battery plants, of which still only three are active, the same number as just under three years ago.
1:02:30 Simon Moores: Lithium ion batteries are a core platform technology for the 21st century, they allow energy to be stored on a widespread basis in electric vehicles and energy storage systems. And they sparked the demand for the critical raw materials and candidates. A new global lithium ion economy is being created. Yet any ambitions for the United States to be a leader in this lithium ion economy continues to only creep forward and be outstripped by China and Europe.
1:03:00 Simon Moores: The rise of these battery mega factories will require demand for raw materials to increase significantly. By 2029, so 10 years from now, demand for nickel double, cobalt growth three times, graphite and manganese by four times, lithium by more than six times.
1:03:30 Simon Moores: The United States progress is far too slow on building out a domestic lithium ion economy. For the opportunities that remain are vast and the pioneers have emerged. Tesla has continued to lead the industry and build on its Nevada Gigafactory by announcing supersize battery plants in Germany and China and is expected to announce a fourth in Texas which will give you the United States as first ever 100% own MMA lithium ion battery cells. Ohio has recognized the scaling opportunity and attracted $2.3 billion from General Motors and LG Chem, a joint venture. You can also turn to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee for electric vehicle and battery cell investment success. Yet, these developments are more of a standalone achievement in a coherent US plan.
1:04:20 Simon Moores: …Imported raw materials and chemicals are the two main components that make a lithium ion battery – the cathodes and the anodes. America is some of the best cathode know how in the business, yet only three capital plants producing under one percent of global output, while China produces over two thirds of global supply from over 100 cathode [inaudible.]
1:04:45 Simon Moores: For graphite anodes, the United States has zero manufacturing plants while China has 48 plants and controls 84% total global anode supply.
1:05:00 Simon Moores: Developing this midstream of the supply chain will create a domestic ecosystem engine, more battery plants to be built, more electric vehicles to be made, more energy storage systems to be installed, animal spark with the betterment domestic mining and chemical processing. However, be under no illusions that the United States needs to build this 21st century industry from scratch. FDR’s New deal for example, built core infrastructure that the United States still relies on today. Nearly 100 years later in similar economic and industrial circumstances your country has to do this all over again. Yet, instead of dams, you need to build battery mega factories in their tenant. Instead of highways and bridges and tunnels you need to build the supply chains to enable these mega factories to operate securely and consistent. These include cathode and anode plants and the lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese sources to feed them. This has to be done at a speed scale and quality that will make most US corporations feel uncomfortable. Even more, the supply chain needs to be underpinned by bigger sized battery recycling facilities to match the scale of these operations and close the loop. One can also look to the creation of a battery creation – widespread US semiconductor industry back in the 1980s believe that the United States built in semiconductors and computing power has sustained your country’s dominance in this space for over five decades. Those who invest in battery capacity and supply chains today will hold the sway of industrial power for generations to come.
1:06:30 Rep. Joe Manchin (WV): Yet here in United States, we have the General Mining Law of 1872, which frankly is nothing short of an embarrassment to our country. In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant was elected president and Susan B. Anthony was served an arrest warrant for voting. Tells you how antiquated our laws are for the hardrock mining, if we’re serious about reducing our import reliance for critical minerals, our mining goals need to be updated. We need to improve the regulatory scheme for mines and low ratio at high grade areas and the claim patent system and help the mining industry put themselves in a better light in the public by establishing a royalty to share the profits with the American people.
1:09:15 Rep. Joe Manchin (WV): What portion of the supply chain either upstream or downstream needs the most attention in terms of our national security? Nedal T. Nassar: Thank you, Ranking Member Manchin. So it really the the answer depends on the commodity. So different commodities will have different bottlenecks in their supply chains. In some cases, there’s a highly concentrated production on the mining stage. In other cases, it might be further downstream. So for example, for niobium, an element that’s produced in only a handful of mines worldwide. And so there are very few mines that are producing it and a single mine might be producing somewhere on the order of two thirds of the world’s supply. On the other hand, there might be commodities where it’s really not about mining, and it’s the there’s enough concentrate being produced, but we’re simply not recovering it further downstream, such as many of the byproducts. So, earlier, one of the other witnesses mentioned tellurium. There’s a lot of tellurium in some of the concentrate that we’re mining with copper. Once it gets to the our copper electrolytic refineries, it’s simply not recovered for economic reasons. So there there are different stages for different commodities. And that’s why I mentioned in my testimony that we do need to look at these supply chains individually to figure out what really is the bottleneck and what strategy would be most effective at reducing that bone.
1:17:45 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): I recall a hearing here in the Energy Committee and one of our witnesses made the comment when it came to recycling that the first place we should look to mine is within our own economy not in the earth but what we have already produced and and basically, remind, repurpose, reuse that so thank you for that comment.
1:19:20 Thomas J. Duesterberg: As Senator Manchin alluded to, we need to revise our mining laws to speed up the permitting process. And perhaps put some time limit on the impact environmental reviews and mining permitting for critical materials.
1:41:30 Joe Bryan: At the same time, from a national security perspective, we may not have minerals but we in some segment segments of the supply chain, but we do have allies and people we can work with and we need to really reach out to those folks like Australia is a perfect example. How are we working with Australia to diversify our supply chain to support our own needs and also perhaps to hedge against China?
2:01:00 Joe Bryan: As a point of reference, note the scale of the Europeans investment, just one of the tranches of funding that came out of the EU. Last December, they put three and a half billion dollars into supply chain investments. Three and a half billion dollars. That’s one tranche. I think the European Investment Bank has said that something like 100 billion dollars has been channeled to the battery supply chain. So the scale of their effort is, we sort of pale in comparison to that, notwithstanding your efforts, Madam Chairman, the other thing I would say is post-COVID, it’s interesting, I think Europeans have seen support for electrification and the supply chain in their stimulus packages. I know Germany and France have both targeted those industries as part of their stimulus. And I think the reason for that is, we obviously, countries are going to want to recover what they have lost, but they also are seeing this as an inflection point for them to decide where they want to be in the future. And so I think they’ve taken advantage of that opportunity and have have sort of doubled down on it. And I think we’re in the same position as we assess where we are and where we’re going. But the scale of their commitment has been, I’ll say impressive.
2:11:00 Joe Bryan: Our weakness is throughout the supply chain. So if we have a stockpile of minerals, but they’re not processed and usable, then I’m not sure how much good it does. If we have to ship the stockpiled minerals to China for processing, that’s probably not the most ideal scenario. So I think we have to look again holistically at the supply chain, look at what we need, and figure out how we position ourselves to attract the kind of massive massive economy changing, transforming levels of investment that are happening globally to the United States.
Hearing: Minerals and Clean Energy Technologies, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, September 17, 2019
- The Honorable Daniel Simmons – Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy, Simmons Testimony
- Dr. Morgan Bazilian – Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines, Bazilian Testimony
- Ms. Allison Carlson – Senior Vice President, Foreign Policy Analytics, Carlson Testimony
- Mr. Robert Kang – CEO, Blue Whale Materials, LLC, Kang Testimony
- Mr. Mark Mills – Senior Fellow Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc., Mills Testimony
40:45 Daniel Simmons: Material intensity and potential global demand is illustrated by a recent report, by a recent analysis by the head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in the UK, using the most current technologies, for the UK to meet their 2050 electric car targets, it would require just under two times the current annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters of the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production. And to put that in perspective, the UK the population of the UK is only 66 million currently, while the population in the United States is 327 million.
41:40 Daniel Simmons: Cobalt makes up 20% of the weight of the cathode of lithium ion electric vehicle batteries. Today, cobalt is considered one of the the highest material supply risks for electric vehicles in the short and medium term. Cobalt is mined as a secondary material from mixed nickel and copper ore. With the majority of the global supply mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Senator Manchin mentioned.
52:15 Robert Kang: We need to collect far more of the spent batteries for recycling. The US currently collects less than 5%, while Europe collects approximately 40% or more. Secondly, we need to expand the United States capacity to process batteries. Today, we shipped most of our collected lithium ion batteries for recycling to China, South Korea and Europe. Increasing us processing capacity will allow us businesses to control the flow of these metals earlier in the supply chain. Lastly, we should encourage refining capabilities here in the US. A market for recycled metals will support investments to strengthen the entire lithium ion battery industry in the US.
1:17:45 Robert Kang: I’ve heard estimates that anywhere from about 20-30% of the world’s mineral needs can be met by recycling. Sen. Angus King (ME): Well, that’s not insignificant. That’s a big number. Robert Kang: And actually it’s reclaiming value from our waste stream. Sen. Angus King (ME): Right. Robert Kang: One way to think about this is if you could change your perspective, I believe one of the next new minds of the future, our urban cities, our homes, we have these, this material locked away in our drawers and inboxes that we don’t look at too often. So if we can promote collection, if we can take these kind of, spent batteries away from, or bring them back to this industry, I think we can claim a significant amount of minerals.
1:19:00 Robert Kang: We are well aware of foreign entities now that are coming into the US and setting up recycling facilities here because they see these minerals and it’s widely known that the US is one of the largest producers of spent lithium ion batteries. Sen. Angus King (ME): They’re mining under our very noses. Robert Kang: Yes, sir. Sen. Angus King (ME): In a domestic resource. Robert Kang: Yes, sir. Sen. Angus King (ME): Ridiculous. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Who is it? Robert Kang: Well, I do know that there is a Korean company that is coming in. There is a Canadian company that’s setting up facilities here, as well as we are aware of conversations and research by Chinese firms recyclers who are coming into this market.
1:42:30 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): My constituents, is the incredible legacy of uncleaned up mines across the west. There are thousands of them. A few years ago during the gold King mine spill, irrigators had to close off their ditches not water their crops, not water their livestock. There were municipal and tribal impacts as huge amounts of released heavy metals came downstream because of the uncleaned up legacy of 150 years of abandoned mines all across the Mountain West. So I think if we’re going to, you know, create a path forward, one of the things we need to do is really think about reforming the 1872 mining act if we’re going to create the the environment where some of these other things can move forward in a first world country.
Hearing: Mineral Security and Related Legislation, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, May 14, 2020
- The Honorable Joe Balash – Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, Balalsh Testimony
- Dr. David Solan – Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
- Mr. Jonathan Evans – President and COO, Lithium Americas, Evans Testimony
- Dr. John Warner – Chairman, National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries, Chief Customer Officer, American Battery Solutions, Warner Testimony
- Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz – Director, West Virginia Water Research Institute, West Virginia University
36:00 David Solan: Critical minerals are used in many products important to the US economy and national security, and they are particularly important to the most innovative clean energy technologies. For example, some of the minerals DOE considers the most critical in terms of supply risk include gallium for LEDs, the rare earths dysprosium in neodymium for permanent magnets and wind turbines and electric vehicles, and cobalt and lithium for electric vehicle and grid batteries. The US is dependent on foreign sources of many critical minerals. And we also currently lack the domestic capability for downstream processing and materials as well as the manufacturing of some products made from them.
41:10 Jonathan Evans: Lithium Nevada Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lithium Americas. It is headquartered in Reno, Nevada and is developing a project called Factor Pass, which is the largest known lithium resource in the United States. Factor Pass will profoundly improve the supply of lithium chemicals by producing 25% of today’s global lithium demand when in full production. Currently, the US produces just 1% of lithium minerals and 7% of lithium chemicals.
49:15 John Warner: Chinese companies are buying up energy materials supply sources around the globe in order to ensure that battery manufacturers based in China have access to reasonably stable supplies of low cost materials.
1:04:30 Paul Ziemkiewicz: Some price support, if not, market support is needed in the early stages, because the first thing that Chinese will do and they’ve done it before, is drop the price on the market because it has its monopoly. And that’ll drive anyone out of business. Mountain Pass was our only active mine right now in United States sends all of its oxide product to China for refining. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Is that because environmental laws in America we were making it very difficult for us to do that process. Paul Ziemkiewicz: I think, and I’m not an economist, but I think it’s just because they have the supply chain.
1:16:15 Joe Balash: At the Department of the Interior, we’re seeing a graying of our own staff in terms of the the expertise for mining in general and that is something that we see nationwide.
1:17:45 John Warner: There’s very few universities today that actually do focus on a program to develop battery engineers, which is one of the most unique engineering fields because it does compromise and come compose of all of the engineering facets from thermodynamics to electronics and software to the chemistry of it.
1:21:20 Jonathan Evans: There are ways to do this. And I think it will be done very, very safely. If you look at traditional sources at least at lithium, but also known cobalt and others, I think projects can do good and do well. Even under the current environmental laws that we have or what’s being promulgated in the future, it’s possible I think to live in both worlds.
1:22:50 Jonathan Evans: You go next across the border to Canada or Australia, they still have strict environmental standards as well, but they accomplish what Senator Murkowski said. It’s seven to 10 years to get approvals here in the United States. There’s lots of mineral resources in those countries, it’s usually about two years, because there’s very strict process, agencies work together and they have, they have to get back and close the process out where things can drag. Sen. Angus King (ME): One of the things we did in Maine that was helpful, might be useful is one stop shopping. In other words, you don’t have to go serially to five agencies, you have one lead agency and everybody else works through that process and that we found that to be very effective.
1:25:15 Paul Ziemkiewicz: The Japanese had a territorial dispute on some islands between Japan and China. And it was few years ago, 2010 maybe, the Chinese simply restricted the ability for the Japanese to get their rare earth supply. And the Japanese caved within something like three or four months. Sen. Angus King (ME): Because of the Japanese manufacturer of these high tech devices that needed that supply? Paul Ziemkiewicz: That’s correct Senator.
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